Friday, July 29, 2011

Happy Birthday......Where's the Camera!!!!

I took the family out fishing on the Mississippi today, a fish story unfolded right before my eyes and I didn't have a camera!  Here's the story....

Monday is my youngest son's birthday (his 8th), so we decided to take an early fishing trip.  Headed to Monticello, MN to fish the Mississippi River.  We heard the river could be high, but we decided to go anyway.  We packed some snacks and drinks, worst case we would watch the boys play on the playground and maybe look for crayfish.

We ordered a pizza and took it to a picnic shelter.  I rigged one fly rod and 3 spinning rods with a bunch of top water stuff.  I pulled a shiny Tiny Torpedo from the box and tied it on my youngest son's setup.  The Tiny Torpedo came from Fly Box Hero, Dick Gross.  A floating lure would surely not get snagged, giving ME more time to fly fish.

In route to the water I stopped at my car, looked at the water and tossed the camera and phone on the seat figuring "The water is high....we aren't going to catch a thing..."  That was the biggest mistake I have made in years.

We fished for about 15 minutes and God was the river high!   Thoughts of packing up shop just entered my mind when I heard a small voice yell "I think I got something!"  I turned to see a massive fish jump out of the corner of my eye.  I thought "Oh....Elliot caught a pike..." and I started walking over to my son (about 150 yards).  My wife was fishing with him and yelled "It's a huge smallmouth!"  I looked again and saw the fish clear the water for a second and third time.  It all happened so fast!

I ran over, set down my rod and saw my son step in my water and lip the smallmouth and it WAS BIG!  I reached in my pocket for a was there!  I felt for a tape measure and had it in my top vest pocket.  Pulled it out to get a number on the fish....22" even!  What a fish!  I removed the treble hooks and Elliot put her back in the river before she got too tired.  Like a little pro he rocked her back and forth in the water and Bam! she was off to her favorite hiding spot, alive and healthy.

I have hauled my camera around for every single trip and the one time I left it in the car a trophy was landed.  The whole family was there, but I would kill for the picture.  Elliot was so proud - As were we!

Well Elliot....Happy Early Birthday!  Hopefully we'll catch a bigger one next year and I'll have the stinkin' camera to capture the moment!

Flat Stanley

Hook: 2XL to 3XL. Daiichi 1260 (Size 6) Shown
Thread: 6/0 Brown Uni
Tail:  Brown Marabou
Thorax: Brown Marabou, Turkey Feather, Pine Squirrel Dub, Copper Wire
Legs: Brown Sili-Legs

This pattern is absolutely deadly because it resembles so many things!  Is it a crayfish, a leech or maybe a hellgrammite....maybe a little of each!  The profile of the fly is the biggest challenge.  If you notice it is actually flat?  The materials used for Stanley are common, but how they are layered is where the magic begins.

The tail is your basic marabou offering, but it is short to stop those short strikes.  The body consists of a few wraps of lead (not too much) covered with a layer of turkey feather.  Marabou covers the turkey along with some blended pine squirrel dub/ice dub.  This is not a simple fly to put up by any means.  I'll work on a video on this one.

The small size and structure of this fly and the fact it is not heavily weighted gives it a very lifelike look in the water.  Cast it above a pool and let him drift under an indicator.  Once the indicator stops, set the hook!  This is a fun one to fish and it is very effective.

Make sure to have a hook hone in your vest to keep the hook nice and sharp.  Under an indicator this fly will tick off roks and debris dulling the hook.  Remember, keep em sharp!

The smallmouth below was caught on this fly under an indicator.  My buddy Peter is the best fisherman I know, he landed this Mississippi smallie on Flat Stanley in 2010.

18" Smallie Caught on Flat Stanley

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hopper Popper

Hook:  Mustad 3366 Size 2
Thread: Black Flat Waxed Nylon
Tail/Body/Head:  El Cheapo Sheet Foam
Legs:  Black Palmer Chenille
Legs:  Grasshopper Barred Sili-Legs

This is the Smallmouth Fly Box rendition of Kent Edmunds Tokyo Spider and Stealth Bomber.  Tied on a size 2 hook this pattern is built for the big boys.  It is very inexpensive to tie, floats all day and is extremely easy to cast even with a 6wt outfit.  I was out last weekend with a 6wt Ross FlyStik and had no problem casting this thing a mile (this is a big bug!). 

I like using large poppers for smallies, but sometimes they can hit the water too hard.  The Hopper Popper hits the water like a dragonfly or a maybe even a grasshopper that was blown in the wind.  I've had everything from big bluegills to northern pike hit this thing like a freight train.

Another beef I have with many top water patterns is the hook gap is too crowded.  Many fisherman resort to bending the hook out to increase hook-ups.  The practice of bending the hook may be necessary on bulky patterns, but there are no worries here.  The bulk of the materials on the Hopper Popper sit on top of the hook shank leaving the hook gap intact.

My blog entry Cork Poppers - Say No to Foam questions the durability of foam poppers and preaches the virtues of cork. Let's face it sometimes foam doesn't hold up well.  However, some simple steps can be taken to increase durability.  For example, I reinforce all thread windings and foam folds with Zap-a-Gap.  Sometimes thread windings nick the foam and a tear will begin to form ruining the fly after a few fish.  Zap-a-Gap creates a rip-stop bond that stops the initial micro-tear giving the fly a much longer lifespan.  The Hopper Popper can survive hard hits from dozens of fish and weeks of river fishing.

Once again we opted for the timeless (and inexpensive) Mustad 3366.  I have deviated from the 3366 to super expensive Tiemco and Gammy hooks, but always return to economical Mustad.  I have heard many people question the quality of Mustad hooks, specifically when it comes to sharpness.  This is when I usually ask if people sharpen their hooks on the river while they are fishing.  Most people I run into do not own a hook hone?  One snag and your fancy uber sharp $1 hook is dull as a Walmart bargain basement hook.  Use the 3366 and carry a hook hone.... 

This is a very versatile and buggy warm water pattern.  Inexpensive to tie, easy to see and cast, floats all day long and is appealing to just about every fish that swims.   Give it a try and I'm certain you'll be hooked.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mike Jacob's Bronze Goddess

Photo Courtesy of Ward Bean (
This is a very buggy looking pattern created by Iowa fly tyer Mike Jacobs.  I will be posting my version of this fly soon.  I like the blend of materials....Mike did a great job.

Here is a link to Mike Jacob's online store the Hawkeye Fly Tyer.

Shannon's Streamer

This is the latest smallmouth pattern posted by Joe Cornwall at Fly Fish Ohio.  I used Shannon's Streamer on the river last weekend and was completely blown away by the way it swims.  Stripped in quick jerks, this streamer darts and swims like a wounded bait fish.

Joe is an amazing fly tyer, using materials many would never consider.  Take the head of this streamer for example, Joe coats the head with clear silicone to trap air and also give the pattern a more realistic feel in the smallies mouth.  Joe Cornwall and Ward Bean are two major influences of the Smallmouth Fly can see why.

The best thing about this fly is the fact it is virtually indestructible.  A hook, chenille, eyes and a gob of silicone.  Sometimes you can make things complicated, but Shannon's Streamer is deadly simple.

Get some of Patron's Bohemian Chenille and get to tying.  The Shannon's Streamer is a fantastic pattern!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Old Saint Nick

Hook:  Streamer Hook (Mustad 9172) Size 6
Thread:  Black 6/0 Uni Thread
Tail:  Olive Marabou
Flash:  Green Ghost Krystal Flash
Body:  Green Holographic Ice Dubbing (Dubbing Loop)
Gill:  Read Flashabou
Head:  Black Cone Head

This is just a nice little streamer that usually bears gifts when attached to your tippet.  I spent the day flipping this pattern around on the St Croix River today and had a blast.  I'll post fish pictures this week.

The St Nick is a buggy little thing.  The ice dubbing is put into a dubbing loop to give it that "buugy" body and the red gills are a nice little accent.

Give this one a shot, it is nice looking, easy to tie and a dream to cast and work in the water.

Happy fishing!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

New use for rabbit zonkers

A little double-sided tape, a red zonker and meet my son the newest member of the Chicago Police Department - Gene Copstashio.

Northwind Lodge Family Vacation 2011

Morning view of Lake Jasper less than 100' from our cabin
We just got back from our trip to Northwind Lodge outside of Ely, Minnesota. The whole family stayed in Cabin #4 overlooking Lake Jasper and the swim beach.

Joe and Annette do a fantastic job with the cabins! Our cabin was super clean with a great shower, kitchen and sitting area. My family of four was very comfortable. The ability to wash off the bug dope before bed with a nice shower was a God's send.

This is a REAL family owned resort owned by the Baltich family since the 1930's. I first visited Northwind Lodge in 1989 and it feels pretty much the same today as it did back then - except for the Red Rock Store which is a very welcome addition to the lodge. Joe and Annette have a real Cabela's of the north at Northwind! Check out their website for great products, from lures and rods to space age epoxy resin canoes.

Our cabin was originally built in 1948 and was added on in 2008. The old section of the cabin has great character.
18" smallmouth on the cabin wall. Not a huge fish, but fitting for the Smallmouth Fly Box cabin!
The cabin interior was clean and comfortable!
The view of Lake Jasper was outstanding
As you can see, the boys loved swimming in the lake! The water was too cold for the adults, but the kids were able to swim and slept well that night.

The sly swimmers of Lake Jasper
Initially the fishing was slow, but the weather has been crazy here in Minnesota - tons of rain and unseasonably cool weather never helps the fishing. By the end of the week the temperatures rose and we had some time to figure out the lake.

The pike and perch started slamming by the end of the week! Believe it or not the Smallmouth Fly Box did not manage to catch a smallie? I busted my butt with my fly rod, but had to resort to spin fishing . Later on in the trip we discovered the bass were all in deeper water feeding on lake shiners. Information discovered just before it was time to pack the car to go home....figures.

Glenn with his Wood Lake Pike

Mom with her Lake Jasper Pike
Elliot with his Wood Lake Pike
The Boys at the Wolf Center in Ely
Goodbye from Northwind....see you next year!